Many articles have been written in recent years about women’s equality in the military, especially in regards to the opening of combat-arms positions to females. Plenty of ink (and pixels) have been spilled over this subject, and SOFREP is no exception. That said, one aspect of the opening of combat arms to women that has not been written about is the public-relations messaging the U.S. military is carrying out. Whether you agree or disagree with the prospect of female infantrymen, Green Berets, and SEALs, the positive PR campaign carried out by the Pentagon is impressive. For the first time, entire demographics that normally could not care less about the military are in full support of gender equality in the military.
One past example that always struck me was that of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel supporters are quick to point out the IDF’s version of gender equality. These are usually photo galleries and even full-color hardcover photo books of young, and often quite pretty, women in the IDF. These materials do not necessarily focus on the combat prowess of the female IDF soldier, but rather on their sex appeal.
The false belief that IDF women are fully integrated into combat-arms positions is still very widespread in the Western world, despite that experiment failing in the 1980s. Today, Caracal, an Israeli border-patrol unit, is the only combat unit with gender integration. Most outsiders simply assume that these pretty, blue-eyed, blond-haired IDF women are down in the trenches like the men. The result is a terrific propaganda win for the IDF, one that stands in start contrast to Israel’s neighbors, which generally speaking, are not too cool about women’s rights.
Western audiences are flooded with imagery of the female ninja vixen, sexy and deadly at the same time. Hollywood examples abound, from Lara Croft to Ultraviolet to Black Widow. Today, it is almost obligatory to have a female archetype in action movies and novels. Friends and peers of mine have felt immense pressure to include fictional female ninja characters in their work, all in the name of reaching out to a larger demographic for commercial reasons. I would argue that the U.S. military is feeling the pressure to find some female action-adventure heroes for largely the same reasons: to drive recruitment, give the military a positive social image with young people, and help neutralize arguments put forward by anti-war leftists.